Mastering quality requires a multi-pronged approach to your manufacturing line. Perhaps this means setting better notifications for problems, using spaghetti diagrams or just monitoring workflow more closely. You may be more familiar with Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) or other process tools. While many different approaches can work, it’s always a good idea to expand your toolbox. In many cases, automating your work is a smart place to start. Software tools can help streamline the manufacturing process, especially certain features.
Here we’ll focus on the following areas:
- Event Workflows
- Process Analysis
Notifications are a crucial part of identifying out of tolerance parts or out of control processes. It’s pretty difficult to improve quality if you aren’t aware of a problem. As with many things in life, the first step in improvement is acknowledging that there is an issue. From there, it’s up to you to take the next steps to resolve it. Setting real-time notifications is one surefire way to improve your manufacturing processes. No one ever says, “I wish I had known about this issue at a later time.” Rather, sooner is always better. This prevents more problems from cropping up—or spiraling out of control. Shortening the time from problem realization to problem resolution can cut down on scrap and rework as well as lessen the chance for recalls and generally cause less stress and headaches. If you aren’t set up with notifications already, start here.
Mapping your workflows can change the entire way you think about the manufacturing process. When it comes to quality improvements, it helps to use all of the tools at your disposal, although finding what works for your organization may be a matter of experimenting with a few different systems.
Event workflows are one way to handle quality challenges. Automating the processes can make escalating an issue easier, with fewer steps along the way. Knowing how to manage the flow of your manufacturing line can highlight areas that should be changed. Bottlenecks will be revealed and steps can be taken to improve them.
When any event occurs that could cause quality issues, the relevant group of operators, supervisors or quality engineers will know about it immediately and be able to address it. In other words, when any potentially troublesome event takes place, staff will be alerted and then required to take action. This may take many forms, but you can feel better knowing that the situation won’t go unnoticed. Nothing will get past you now.
According to Nukon, automating workflow will yield better results. “Automated workflows equip employees with the right data at the right time where routine tasks are automated, and attention is redirected toward more valuable activities like continuous improvement. They also ensure every workflow is executed according the standard operating procedure, every time.”
The company goes on to explain, “What this means for quality: Different events such as a machine stoppage, or a quality nonconformance event could trigger a different workflow to improve quality and downtime response. e.g. The workflow assigns an operator on a bottling line to take torque gauge samples on bottle screw caps periodically through the work order. If the torque samples fall into tolerance the workflow marks it as a ‘pass’, if one falls out of specification, the workflow would mark it as a ‘nonconforming sample’, and then automatically escalate it to a QA Review. The QA technician would be notified, and they would decide on an appropriate resolution. This stage leads into decision support – where by the workflow can make decisions for you based on data available.”
Quality is built on good processes. Thus, process analysis is another category to be aware of in your efforts to improve quality. This may take many different forms.
Flowcharts, failure mode effects analysis, mistake proofing and spaghetti diagrams can all help in the quest to understand processes. ASQ describes them in this way:
“Flowchart: A picture of the separate steps of a process in sequential order, including materials or services entering or leaving the process (inputs and outputs), decisions that must be made, people who become involved, time involved at each step, and/or process measurements.
Failure mode effects analysis (FMEA): A step-by-step approach for identifying all possible failures in a design, a manufacturing or assembly process, or a product or service; studying the consequences, or effects, of those failures; and eliminating or reducing failures, starting with the highest-priority ones.”
Another useful technique, mistake proofing, involves an automatic way to prevent errors or, if it is not possible to prevent them entirely, from making them obvious if they do happen.
Finally, you may not have heard of a spaghetti diagram. This is a visual tool that provides a continuous flow line tracing the path of an item through a process. It allows a group to look for duplicated efforts and areas to improve the flow.
As with any skill set, mastering quality takes time and dedication. But by breaking the task into manageable chunks, it is possible to get results.